No two journeys are ever the same. Yet how many of us return to a particular place seeking to re-experience what we once did? We all have a favourite place to travel back to, a reminder of precious moments that left us feeling connected and enlivened. Experiences such as a great dinner in a restaurant, the view from a mountain top or sunset at a beach, walking through a forest, taking in the sights of a historic town or sporting event.
These experiences leave such a mark that we yearn to return, to re-experience the delight and re-activation of our senses. Its imprint can be so strong that we make that moment mean something. This place becomes a symbol of that moment. Regardless of what it was, there is a part of you that identifies that place and moment as special; it is an anchor of happiness, of joy.
The imprint of this can be so strong that when we seek to re-experience happiness, we can go looking for that once more. It can become a longing, a yearning for something that was. This doesn’t even need to be related to travel. Even a local restaurant, or going to the football, a social gathering can have the same impact. It is the association of place with experience.
For me that place is Melbourne. It is home. The place I was born, lived for over 40 years and have raised my young family within. Living interstate now for just on ten years, I still need to travel ‘home’ to Melbourne, usually once or twice a year. As I say to many I need my ‘Melbourne fix’. You don’t realise the energy of a city until you no longer live within it. There is something about your home city, a physical connection to land and place that engenders a sense of belonging.
I love watching my footy team play at the MCG, going to the Theatre, visiting the National Gallery, shopping, eating and walking along some of my favourite streets and parks.
Chapel St, South Yarra is a place I associate with fun times and warm hearted memories. It is a lively street full of cafes, boutique shops, trams bustling along, people immersing themselves in life, Channel 10, apartment buildings…. the list goes on. It wasn’t a place I lived in when I was in Melbourne, but as a tourist it is a fab place to base yourself. This recent trip was my fourth and I was keen to eat cake at my favourite patisserie, browse the shops (that I don’t have access to in Perth) and soak up the atmosphere. Super excited once more for these experiences.
On this most recent trip, when I started to walk up Chapel St it was different. My favourite cake shop was gone, the clothing boutique I loved had closed, many shops were ‘for let’ and a huge apartment block had been developed completely changing the landscape of the street. It was such a disorienting experience. Everything I was looking for, that I associated with joy was gone. My expectations weren’t being met. I felt deflated and sad for what was and no longer is. It became just another street.
The same can occur when you return home to visit family. We can take a snapshot of our time together and put it in a photo frame etched in our mind. We can assume that when we go back that we are all the same, that we can pick up from where the photo was taken. It is not often the case though. People change. You change. The place changes. Attempting to reinvent or assuming it is the same can be naive. It can be confronting.
“But places change; they go on without you…For the truth is that you can never simply “go back”, to home or to anywhere else. When you get “there” the place will have moved on just as you yourself will have changed”A Thin Place: a narratives of space and place, Celtic spirituality and meaning’ Laura Beres
I have had a similar experience travelling to Central Australia. I first travelled to Uluru in the mid 2000’s. My husband and I took our three kids there twice, once in a campervan ( yes we drove from Melbourne to Central Australia with three kids in a campervan! ) the other in a motorhome (not much better actually!) . Exploring this land with my family was special, introducing them to our Indigneous culture, watching a sunrise at Uluru and walking the valley at Kata Tjuta. It did have a profound effect on me. The imprint is so strong that I returned there on two other occasions on my own; once in 2011 and again in 2012. These journeys were different. As I should have expected them to be because I was on my own.
Uluru became a symbol of vastness, expansiveness and stillness. Something I experience ‘there’ but often nowhere else. It is a deeply spiritual place and the connection to land seeps up through the souls of your feet and into your bloodstream. You become one with all that is. There is no separateness. This was a feeling I didn’t always have in a city. Uluru became a place I thought I needed to be ‘in’ to feel this way.
Six years later I returned to this magical place, alone, with fond memories and seeking. Not sure what for but I was returning looking for something I previously had. When I arrived, nothing happened. The ‘wow’ didn’t occur. The tears didn’t trickle out of my eye and my breath didn’t get taken away. Uluru was there with its incredible strong and steady presence and the domes of Kata Tjuta still embraced me in her warmth. Yet it wasn’t the same as before. Clearly I was looking for something ‘that was’. I was yearning for a past experience in the present moment. Once more I was shown that time moves, change is the constant and experiences can not be re-created.
Which brings me to presentness. What my recent experiences travelling back to Melbourne and Central Australia have shown was the beauty of being in the moment. Accepting that this moment is the only one. You need to fully immerse yourself in it. Because you don’t know what will come next. It is accepting that you will change, the place itself may not physically change (in its structure) but it changes in its own unique way. The trees change, animals evolve and the landscape adapts. The wind will be different, the heat of the sun is more intense, the air is different, there are new native flowers blooming, the scent of the gum tree unique, the she oak trees aged … it all changes. So fully immerse yourself in where you are now. Take it in deeply to your heart core and relish every miniscule of it.
Looking for what was, creates expectations.
Expectations, if not fulfilled lead to disappointment. It also strips you from the wondrous gift of being fully present in the moment and to what is offered there and then. Spending time seeking for what was, denies what is.
Travel with an open mind and heart.
#enlightenedtraveller #melbourne #richmond #centralaustralia